A Review of Teslacon V 2014


Well, that’s another Teslacon adventure in the can, or as Captain Krieger said, we all survived until the end credits! After you read this, there are other reviews here and here. Also, check out the Facebook pages here and here for great photos and comments.


Eric Larson, aka Lord Bobbins, and his staff put on another entertaining show this year as the attendees were all passengers aboard the Freya, traveling to the Center of the Earth!


Friday started off right at 10am with panels on publishing, history and theory, costuming, and the opening of the vendor rooms. Attendees got to hear tips and suggestions on writing their stories and how to go about getting published. There was a talk about the daring and duplicitous women who traded in secrets in the 1860s. There was a standing-room-only discussion about time travel. The vendor rooms were loaded with couture, books, accessories, and plenty of gift ideas.


Saturday and Sunday panels continued with entertaining discussions by makers and crafters, authors, and community groups. There were tips on creating your own steamsona, book trailers, and steampunking Shakespeare. People learned about the steampunk multiverse, talked about starting and growing a steampunk group, and participated in LGBT discussions. There was even a good discussion about how to handle the reactions of “normal” people when steampunking in public.

 panel by Lisa HagerPhoto by Lisa Hager

The new Maker’s Room had tutorials on using paper, leather, and even Lego Mindstorm Robotics! There was an Iron Tailor (sewing) event, a swap meet, an ever busy Fix-It table, and the Promethean Science Fair.

 attendee-mapThere were quite a few attendees from other countries, as well

The Games Room, led by the Victorian Gamers Alliance, had live and demo sessions running for Twisted Skies, Leviathans: Monsters In The Sky, Journey to the Center of the Earth, DINO Hunt, Adventurers, Elder Sign, Forbidden Desert, among others.

 Alex-BrendanTwo of the Bobbins Boys staff – Alex and Brendan

In order to get ready for Saturday’s Grand Ball, there were classes covering the waltz, polka, and country dances. Dancing is always a good skill to know, so take advantage of free classes at any steampunk event.



For those who needed a respite from all that activity, the Tea Room provided a nice space to relax with a cuppa, some biscuits, and friendly conversation with friends old and new.


Unwoman, Erica Mulkey, among others, was on hand to perform in the hotel’s atrium to the musical delight of convention attendees. Always wonderful to see her again.


The party and adventure really got started on Friday with Opening Ceremonies. The line of attendees snaked through the hotel, and it’s amazing how fast 1,200+ people can get settled when they are motivated. Watching everyone file into the ballroom was like a non-stop cornucopia of visual delights. The creativity of steampunks is second to none, and every outfit was worth seeing.

1pound note-matthew-duncanOne Pound note created by Matthew Duncan


Welcoming speeches were made, thanks and awards given out to people who made the convention possible, and then, it was time for the Freya to seek out passage to the underworlds. Helped with Teslacon movie magic, we flew through the ice and snow of the Arctic Circle, and from the view screen, we could see the majesty of nature all around us. Over the mountains and through the valleys, we made our way closer and closer to the hoped-for, nay, expected, entrance to the Center of the Earth. And then there it was, lit up by the aurora borealis.


As we approached, we were met by a welcoming committee of flying saucers. Well, maybe not welcoming, exactly. I believe this was the moment when Captain Krieger got to use his new toys – laser cannons! He got to use them a few more times as we descended into large caverns and tunnels, and eventually out to a new world.


Nothing to fear here, though, and we promptly disembarked from the ship to explore. We made new friends along the way. I don’t recall hearing anything about anyone being eaten, so that’s a good thing.

 Dinos-by-Diana-PhoPhoto by Diana Pho

How does one carry on from there? A fashion show right afterward, more tea, Saturday story line immersion performances, and the Grand Ball where people dressed up in their finest. You know you are at a steampunk event when wearing a tuxedo might leave one feeling a little under dressed.

 tricera-by-Diana-PhoPhoto by Diana Pho

With so much going on all day and night, “some people” were moving a little slow Sunday morning. “Some people” needed six cups of tea with breakfast to really get going.

 Teslacon by Peter BaumPhoto by Peter Baum

Like many other conventions, Teslacon offers the opportunity to pre-register for next year. People could pre-reg for the regular ticket, and the patron level tickets will go on sale soon. Teslacon does offer some nice and personally creative items in the patron passes. One perk is being able to sit in the first few rows in the main room, but others include pins, artwork, photo room gift certificate, and drinkware.

Victoria-pin patron-tickets

The weekend wrapped up with the departure of the Freya from the underground lands, drilling it’s way home through the perilous strata (and plenty of Krieger firing his lasers!). Surviving another year, we were treated to teasers about the next several year’s themes.


2015 is a trip to the Wild Wild West with Saturday night entertainment at the Night Circus.

2016 is the Battle of Britain, The Return of Swarm.

2017 is the Murder on the Orient Express.

www-star-posterWWW-colorsOfficial color palette for The Wild Wild West

Night circus-colrosOfficial color palette for The Night Circus

Everyone has a year now to get ready for the Wild, Wild West theme. Get your boots and britches, ruffle those petticoats, and learn how to Square Dance and Two Step!



Also, remember the Bobbins Initiative all year long – share your love of steampunk and share it with two friends. Bring them to events, share new books, show them how great they’d look in steampunk fashions. There’s a whole world out there, and new friends to be made!


Published in: on November 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Review of Teslacon IV 2013


O.M.G (Insert your personal “G” word here)

Teslacon IV The Congress of Steam was amazing! Four days of events and entertainment, October 31 – November 3, 2013, was enough to make the most energetic person drag home in grateful exhaustion and fatigue.

The excitement started before the convention with a series of radio announcements, which detailed events leading up to the convention itself.


Some people started arriving on Wednesday as there were already panels and events on Thursday. There were panels on writing, 19th century history, and mixed media to get things rolling. After that, there was the Masquerade Ball, and even though it was only the first night, people really brought their “A” game with their outfits.

One thing I really love about our community is the creativity we bring to everything we do. Some people make their clothes, some pull purchased items together very well, but everyone, from waif to aristocrat, looks great.

Another great thing about our community and fandom, which was again evident at Teslacon, is how steampunk is not only family friendly but inter-generational friendly. It was great to see whole families dressing up to enjoy the weekend as well as seeing people from eight to eighty talking together without hesitation for any reason. We are all steampunks together, and we often converse and discourse like one. Our interactions for fun and education are definitely not bound nor restricted by age, or gender, or any other externally imposed factor.

Panels for the weekend thankfully started at a civil 10am, except for a handful on Saturday which started at the rude hour of 9am. Thanks to all of you who came to the panel I was on at that time. 🙂


A big thanks is deserved to the programming team at Teslacon for the varied and enjoyable panel topics and events they pulled together for the weekend. I was on eleven panels and participated in the Opening Ceremonies, which meant there were a large number of panels that I missed  😦 .

The schedule is here and here for posterity, and so all of you can either remember what you attended and for everyone else, what we missed.

Friday included panels on cosplay and fashion, history and reviving older traditions today, writing and literature, and music and performances. The highlight of Friday was the Opening Ceremony. I always appreciate opening ceremonies at conventions because not only is it a definite marker of the official start, but it’s also a great way to bring everyone at the event together, united as a con family at least for that moment. We’ll see each other coming and going during the weekend, but for that moment, we are all together as one.

This year’s ceremony for the Congress of Steam included a processional March of Airships from around the world, including the US, France, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine, England, Saudi Arabia, China, and Spain. It was quite a sight to see groups large and small, well known and not so much, parade in with their banners. The ceremony also included dancing by the Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers. They were absolutely amazing and I was so caught up in watching, that I suspended my disbelief completely and completely forgot I was at a convention in a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin and felt like I as a delegate at diplomatic proceedings in Oslo, Norway.


Because the room parties on Thursday weren’t enough, there were even more on Friday, and still more on Saturday. Snacks, foods, birthday cake, and drinks of all concoctions, virgin and definitely not, were all part of that grand entertainment supplied by other guests and groups. Anecdotally, it was remarked that Out From Behind the Curtain had the best party with absinthe, drinking vinegar and gluten free spice cake, along with an amazing locally made steampunk birthday cake.

Saturday also sported the same type of programming tracks and reflected a real diversity of topics. There was definitely something for everyone at every hour of the day. Sunday morning started with a non-denominational worship service and wrapped up with a handful of panels before the closing ceremonies.

While some people had to sadly check out and hit the road to head home before the closing, almost every seat was still filled as our friend and host, Lord Hastings Robert Bobbins III, Prime Minister of England, graciously sent us on our way with several things to think about and a few easy things for us to do.

He reminded us that steampunk is OUR fandom, and that while we each have our own definitions of steampunk, beyond that we create our fandom and events in the way we want them to be. WE decide what our conventions look like – panels, performances, presentations, fashions, and socializing. We also create things – even if some commercial group or company came out with amazing and quality items that we would gladly buy (and sadly, so many big companies trying to chase the steampunk dollar genuinely don’t understand us at all) we will still take that thing and gleefully change it anyway to suit our personal needs, wants and tastes.

The action item we were challenged with by Lord Bobbins was this: in February and July, bring two new people to any steampunk event, big or small, local or regional or international. It’s a small and easy thing, one where we can share our enthusiasm and interest with others. Not everyone we bring will stay and be involved, but there will be those who do and who will thrive in the community just as we do.


This isn’t some plot, as some have speculated, to get more people to Teslacon, which has a capped attendance, or about any one individual. It’s about all of us around the world including other people we know in something we enjoy. There is no ‘saving’ of steampunk, or any other fandom, in this. There is no agenda, no grand vision, and certainly no conspiracy, LOL – it’s about sharing.

While Madison is not on the major travel routes in the US like Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta, it does have a very nice airport with efficient and friendly staff. The Madison Marriott was also a wonderful hotel with a free airport shuttle, and with staff who look forward to seeing us each year. The restaurant (Hi Pearl!) serves good Midwestern fare, including gluten free bread, and a great breakfast buffet with made to order omelets. The standard rooms are nice, with the usual basic amenities (no fridge), and internet connection for a fee. Unlike some other convention hotels, I had decent cell phone signal in the actual convention space. The one amenity I wish they had was a computer and printer to print out my boarding passes before I left for the airport. Maybe that was in their business center and I just missed it.

If you like a medium sized convention with a variety of programming tracks and panel topics, and a thematic storyline and performance running through the weekend, then Teslacon might be a good convention to attend next year. Be quick to get your tickets, though. Pre-registration is already half sold.

See you in 2014 as Lord Bobbins takes us to the Center of the Earth!


Published in: on December 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Steampunk World’s Fair III – Review

May is always a very busy month for steampunk conventions, often offering dry cooler late spring weather (except in Texas) and a calm before the rush of summer activities and holidays. In the last few years, there was one convention every weekend around the United States and Europe to attend. This year, May weekends often had two conventions or local events going on, making for some more difficult decisions for people about how to spend their time.


As noted in press releases, emails and Facebook postings by Jeff Mach and his crew, the Steampunk World’s Fair has evolved and grown beyond being a convention. While conventions often follow a schedule of discussion and presentation panels during the day, sometimes with demonstrations, followed by an evening of musical entertainment, SPWF is much more of a festival. There were still panels and author readings, in very full hotel meeting rooms, but there were also demonstrations, presentations, and performances all day long. There was truly something for everyone at this event, and while there was the age-old problem of choosing between one program and another, it was also easier to be caught up in thoroughly enjoying the moment.


From the Welcome article in the event’s program paper, Jeff writes:

We wanted to create an event, not just for Steam royalty, but also for airship mechanics.  We wanted an event which presented, not some set-in-stone definition of what Steampunk is, but a billion ways to experience it, rejoice in it, and build it!


OK, so there weren’t a billion expression of steampunk but there were quite a few to choose from. Several are mentioned below, but there really are too many people, groups and businesses to list individually in this review, so check the website for the full listing. You won’t be disappointed.


Starting with the authors, since that’s where steampunk originated, there were readings and signings during the three days by Kady Cross (The Girl in the Steel Corset), Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine (Phoenix Rising, and Janus Affair), Lia Habel (Dearly, Departed) and many more.  Emilie Bush gave a charming reading to several steam-tots of her latest work, Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk bedtime story.  Literature is what brought me to steampunk and it remains my core interest, so I’m always looking forward to author panels and having a chance to catch up with them.


For historical topic presentations, there was Mystery Airships of 1897 by Zebulon Vitruvius Pike (I recommend this one and can’t wait to hear the presentation again), Great Activists of the 19th Century by Steampunk Emma Goldman, and Victorian Women of Science by Robin and Adam Renner. One thing that steampunk has brought into my life is an appreciation for the history that wasn’t taught in school. I don’t know about your grade school and high school textbooks, but mine were dry, dry, dry. And boring. With steampunk, though, I have a new appreciation for what else was happening in the world and actively seek out ever-increasing amounts of information about the nineteenth century. So, airships, activists and science? I’m there!


Current day steampunk topics included Comics in Steampunk by The Red Fork Empire, Creating Realistic Steampunk Worlds by Major Girth, and Steampunk and Social Media by a panel of guests. More serious discussion panels included Envisioning a Better Steam Society: Social Issues and Steampunk by Jaymee Goh, and Legal issues in Comic Publishing by Thomas A. Crowell, Esq. While we can’t rewrite the past, we can use the various expressions of steampunk to look at today’s social issues and work towards creating a better life and society for everyone.


Fashion and cosplay more to your tastes? There was Dandyism with Phil Powell and Advanced Kimono with The crazy Kimono Lady. No matter how great our outfits might be, there’s always something we can learn to make it just a bit better, or create something entirely new, not to mention how to improve our everyday style, appearance, and impression.


Perhaps more actionable skills? Professor Mark Donnelly had several engaging presentations including Fight like a REAL Highlander, Archery:  Its History and Forms, and Kicking Ass in a Corset: Bartitsu for Ladies and Gentlemen.  Not exactly actionable but clearly interesting for steampunks and steampunk worlds, Mark also talked about Inventions No One Mentions: Bizarre Victorian Contraptions. Mark really knows his material and it was quite engaging to learn more, in a very fun way, about the hows and whys of things. If you get a chance to see him, take it!


Fancy a bit of sit down entertainment? There was the fashion show, the Queen of Steam contest, and the First Annual Dandy-Off, all as a chance for people to really show off their fashionability and support each other in camaraderie.  Also for a bit of edification and amusement, there was an absinthe tasting in the very full hotel restaurant.


The real differentiator of SPWF from any other steampunk event you’ve attended was the sheer number of performance groups – music, dance and otherwise.  Easily one third, perhaps even one half, of the Fair’s programming was performance and this is what clearly sets SPWF apart.


Local, national, and international groups were on hand, well known and soon to be well known, just a tiny sampling of names are:

Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band

The Extraordinary Contraptions

The Clockwork Dolls

Frenchy and the Punk

Eli August

Baroque and Hungry (my Dad bought their cd)


And making their American premiere,

Victor Sierra

Strange Artifact


There are SO MANY MORE groups that were performing, so please do visit the SPWF website to see the rest of the listing and then go check out their music on their websites.


Before heading out the exit, though, no event would be complete without a trip or ten through the Mercantile. With over 80 vendors, there was something bound to catch everyone’s eye. I was sorely tempted by some leather arm bracers and some amazing long coats, and did find that I could not live without some new button covers and a few bars of Eli August’s soap.  Yes, clad in only one’s unmentionables, it was possible to be fully kitted out and accessorized after a trip through the vendor’s offerings.


Steampunk World’s Fair III was a big, busy and energetic event, and if that appeals to you, along with more performances than panels, make plans to attend next year by pre-registering when tickets become available, and book your hotel room as soon as the information is posted (it’s free to book a room and makes sure that you get into the hotel of your choice).

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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